On the surface, P.K. Subban to the San Jose Sharks makes some sense.
San Jose Hockey Now, however, spoke with an NHL scout who was quick to throw cold water on the idea.
The Sharks could use a defenseman who might be able to hang in their top-four, especially since they lost potential top-four option Nikolai Knyzhov to a torn achilles.
San Jose’s only surefire top-four defenders right now are Erik Karlsson and Mario Ferraro.
I know the 2013 Norris Trophy winner isn’t quite that anymore, but as recently as 2020-21, Subban was still playing top-pairing minutes for the New Jersey Devils.
Last year, however, he was fifth among Devils rearguards in average ice time.
“He’s really gone downhill,” the scout noted.
There’s a reason why Subban should come cheap to whoever signs him.
That said, the Sharks have literally just five right-handed defensemen in the entire organization: Karlsson and Matt Benning, and prospects Ryan Merkley, Gannon Laroque, and Mattias Havelid.
Now this was a void even before the left-handed Knyzhov went down, but the right-handed Subban could add to San Jose’s balance and depth in that department.
For what it’s worth, lefties Ferraro, Markus Nutivaara, Radim Simek, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Santeri Hatakka have a lot of experience playing their off-side.
“He’s not a very good defender anymore,” the scout said of Subban. “His decision-making is all over the map. You’re never sure what he’s going to do on the ice. Some of the things that he does don’t make sense, so you can’t anticipate his moves if you’re his D-partner or teammate. He’s not trustworthy in that regard.”
But Subban can still help on the man advantage, right?
The Sharks desperately need a second-unit power play quarterback to emerge after Karlsson. It’s one story if the skilled Merkley is ready for regular NHL duty. But if the 2018 first-round pick isn’t, who’s San Jose’s next best power play blueliner after Karlsson? Nutivaara? Ferraro? Vlasic?
So again, while Subban isn’t Subban anymore, he is experienced running a PP. From 2010 to 2018, Subban was third among league defensemen in total power play usage, after Karlsson and Keith Yandle.
But the scout cautioned: “He’s not a very good power play guy now, even on the second unit. He’s a shooter, and his shot is hard, but he’s not in control of it. He scares his net front forwards to death.”
One interesting wrinkle: San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier knows Subban well. Grier was a Devils assistant coach during Subban’s first season in New Jersey in 2019-20.
Keep in mind, the scout who I spoke with was addressing whether Subban could still fill a top-four or a power play spot on a team. He still should be able to be able to help an NHL organization, just in a far more limited role than he might be accustomed to?
“I think based on his play recently with New Jersey and all of the positive comments that [Devils GM] Tommy Fitzgerald has made about his play and his support for his teammates and his likability by his teammates,” Subban’s agent Don Meehan told the Montreal Gazette in late July. “The way he contributed this year, I think he played effectively. He’s not the P.K. of eight years ago, but then nobody is. But I think there’s a place for him that he can contribute to a team and contribute well on a positive basis.”
Of course, Subban isn’t the only UFA defenseman available, just the most celebrated one.
Other possibilities for the Sharks include left-handers Calvin de Haan, Danny DeKeyser, Andy Greene, Kris Russell, and Ryan Murray. Off the top of my head, Greene and Russell have a lot of experience manning their off-side.
Right-handers Anton Stralman and Michael Stone are also available.
SJHN is checking up on all these free agents and their fit with the San Jose Sharks, more on this later.
By the way, thanks to the Young Guns Podcast for putting the idea of Subban to the Sharks in my head during my recent interview with them – that, and Knyzhov’s injury made me dig a little.
Check out my chat with them here:
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